QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig. Copyright: TalkbackThames.


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 266 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2021. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Next new episode is today at 9pm. Series R, Episode 15
Catch-up on Episode 14 on BBC iPlayer   Series N, Episode 1 is repeated on Dave today at 6pm.

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Phill Jupitus, Sandi Toksvig, Alice Levine, Alan Carr. Copyright: TalkbackThames.

Series Q, Episode 6 - Quests: Part I

With Alan Carr, Phill Jupitus and Alice Levine. Find out who put the raisins in Fruit 'n' Fibre, marvel at a Bolivian frog named Romeo (he dances modern jazz but never smiles), and learn the identity of the closest planet to Earth (we know you think you know it... but you don't).

Further details


- The panel are shown a picture of the title character in Miguel de Cervantes's most famous work and are asked who the character is. The correct pronunciation is "Don Qui-Sh-Otay", because in the book the character speaks in old Castilian. However, strictly speaking his real name is Alonso Quijano, with "Don Quixote" being a name he gives himself. Many people claim that Don Quixote is the first modern novel. Cervantes wrote it while in prison, and the book was an immediate success. In the novel, Don Quixote goes insane because of reading, because it was thought that reading or what was called "excessive contemplation" was bad for you, with one Dr. Robert Burton claiming it caused illnesses such as gout, catarrhs, wasting, indigestion, colick, crudities, vertigo, consumption and wind. (Forfeit: Don Kee-Ho-Tee; Don Quicks-Oat)

- XL Tangent: Elizabeth I probably never read "Don Quixote" because Cervantes was a buying agent for the Spanish Armada. Elizabeth I spoke six languages, but she had no teeth so foreign ambassadors had trouble understanding her.

- Tangent: Alan C. says how nice it is to be with another Alan, because there are so few Alans around, claiming that with him on the telly he thought there would be more. Sandi however suggests that Alan C. is not the best advert for the breeding of children.

- Tangent: Cervantes got shot three times while he was in the Spanish army, lost the use of his left arm, was kidnapped and held captive as a slave for five years, was arrested three times and excommunicated three times.

- XL Tangent: Cervantes is recorded as having died on 23rd April 1616, the same date as William Shakespeare, but they actually died ten days apart because Spain was using the Gregorian calendar, while Britain still used the Julian calendar. Also, in Spain the death date was recorded on the day a person was buried.

- The most thankless job in history was Youxia. In Ancient China between 400-100BC, these people were on a constant quest to rescue anyone in trouble and to help the poor. However, these people hated being thanked because they were too modest. Part of their fundamental beliefs was that you should never receive praise. They are similar to the knight-errants, which was what Don Quixote was. One Youxia, Chu Chia, saved the lives of hundreds of people, but whenever anybody thanked him he hated it, to the point that when he saved the life of a king he refused to see him again in case the king thanked him. This occurred during the 250-year period of Warring States, where many dynasties were fighting for control. The winners in the end were the Qin dynasty, and it is from the Qin where China gets its name from. During this period of time, people turned to the Youxia, who were prepared to sacrifice themselves to help others.

- Tangent: The worst job Alan C. ever had was putting the raisins into Fruit 'n' Fibre. One job Phill had was at a record company where someone had a record out with a lyric that mentioned Mr. Potato Head, and as a promotional device he had to carve faces into 100 potatoes.

- XL Tangent: In China, there was a TV series called "Youxia", which was based on the American TV series "Knight Rider". The Chinese version made a real version of the car, called it the "Youxia", fitted it with an operating system called "KITT", and the car came fitted with all the LED lights.

- The lowest camping experience possible is 1.6km down, inside the world's deepest cave. The Krubera Cave in Georgia is 13km long, over 2km deep, and can fill with water really quickly with no warning at all. In 2018, 56 cavers from seven different countries spent four weeks inside it. The campers slept six to a tent and for fun they would dive down into sumps, which are freezing cold passages submerged underwater, and would squeeze as far as they could down these extremely narrow passageways. The deepest point of Krubera Cave is the Terminal Sump, and nobody knows how deep it is. Ukrainian Gennady Samokhin holds the record for the deepest dive so far at 52 metres down the Terminal Sump.

- Tangent: The question is first illustrated by a picture of Glastonbury, in what Phill believes was 2006 or 2007, where there was such terrible flooding that police divers were going into tents looking for bodies, but no-one died. Alan C. went to Glastonbury once and got so drunk that he woke up on the floor with two footprints on his chest, and someone had stubbed a fag out on his face.

- XL Tangent: The Krubera Cave is home to the deepest terrestrial animal ever found on Earth. A 3mm hexapod named "plutomurus ortobalaganensis" lives nearly 2,000m down the cave.

- Tangent: Camping as we know it today was invented by the Victorians. There was a boating craze up and down the Thames, with some boats converted into floating tents. British tailor Thomas Hiram Holding is considered the father of lightweight camping. As a boy in 1853 he and his family travelled across the USA by pioneer wagon, and he loved this so much that this lead to camping. Holding produced the Camper's Handbook and under meal suggestions he offers recipes for blancmange and lobster salad. Alan D. remembers getting a vegetarian cookbook in the 1980s where one of the recipes was for a crisp sandwich.

- The thing that Everest summiters come down with is 18lb of rubbish, including poo, otherwise the Tibetan government will take away their $4,000 deposit. If you are given permission to go to the summit you have to queue, and people get really bad-tempered while waiting, thus ending up in fights. The Tibetans call Everest "Qomolangma", and they employ 30 porters to carry faeces down from the mountain and into special pits. There is just over 26,000lb of faeces dumped at Base Camp. The porters, who are Nepalese, use a namlo, a sling that goes across the forehead, to carry the faeces down. On average the male porters can carry 90% of their body mass, while the female porters can carry 66%. One porter can carry twice his own weight.

- Tangent: Alan D. was offered the chance to walk to Base Camp, but declined after one day's training on Hampstead Heath. You can only get to the top of Everest during a fortnight in May and a fortnight in October, as the rest of the time it is too cold and windy to reach.

- Tangent: Edmund Hillary went back to the Himalayas many times after climbing Everest including leading an expedition to look for the Abominable Snowman, which he concluded didn't exist. The Nepalese government have rules for hunting yetis: you have to pay for a permit, you have to photo or capture it, you cannot kill it, and the yeti or and photos of it have to be turned to the government.

- XL: The first ever cliffhanger ending concluded with someone being rescued using women's underwear. In Thomas Hardy's 1873 novel A Pair of Blue Eyes, the character Henry Knight is left dangling perilously off the edge of a cliff. His love interest, Elfride rescues him by taking off all her underwear in a bush and making a rope to save him. Metaphorical cliffhangers date back to the One Thousand and One Nights, where the storyteller ends with a cliffhanger after every story to avoid being killed.

- XL Tangent: Hardy's novel "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" contains a line about a woman felling a huge erection in her front. It turns out the erection is Stonehenge.

- XL Tangent: Alan C. asks if there is a cliffhanger in the Bible, where the Virgin Mary is about to tell Joseph that her baby is not his.

- XL Tangent: There were serial films in the early 20th century. These films were normally shown weekly, on a Saturday morning, continuing from the last film and normally having some kind of suspenseful scene that would resolve the following week. Probably the most successful was "The Perils of Pauline" from 1914, where the sixth episode features a literal cliffhanger, in which Pauline is clinging halfway down a cliff.

- XL Tangent: The Zeigarnik Effect is when people can remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. In 1927, psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, the first Russian woman ever to attend university, studied this phenomenon after her professor noticed that a waiter had better recollections of unpaid orders than paid ones. She discovered that people will remember an interrupted task 90% better than one that is uninterrupted.

- Britain's greatest national treasure got here via rgstered post. The Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond ever found, is the source of the diamonds in the Crown Jewels. It was the size of an orange, when in comparison the average diamond is the size of a seed. Discovered in the Cullinan Mine in South Africa in 1905, it was probably the most valuable object in the world at the time. To transport the diamond to London, they put on a ceremony where the diamond was put into a package, locked into a safe, put on a steamboat and a team of detectives guarded the safe. However, all of this was a decoy as they really just posted the diamond. When the diamond arrived it was immediately taken to Edward VII to inspect. The diamond originally went unsold for two years, but then it was purchased by the government of Transvall for the equivalent of £15million, who planned to give it as a gift to the Edward VII. The government was not sure about the plan, but the then Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill told the government that they should take it. Transvall was so greatful for this that Churchill was given a replica of the diamond that he would put on a silver plate and show off to guests. The people who worked on the diamond were the Asscher brothers in Amsterdam. Again a decoy journey for the diamond was set up with the Royal Navy taking a box across the North Sea, when in fact Abraham Asscher just had the diamond in his pocket and travelled by train and ferry. Joseph Asscher studied the diamond, planned the cut for weeks, and four days before making the initial groove his cutting knife broke on the diamond. In the end he spent nine months cutting it into nine major diamonds, with 96 being brilliant cut. Cullinan's I is the Great Star of Africa and is on top of the sceptre, while Cullinan's II is in the front of the Imperial State Crown. The front of that crown also has the world's largest ruby, the Black Prince's Ruby, which is not cut properly.

- The panel are shown the following dating profile and are asked who would be interested in it: "Stocky build, short, bald Bolivian male, moderate drinker, never been in a previous relationship, definitely wants children." The profile was for Romeo, a Sehuencas water frog living in a tank in the Cochabamba Natural History Museum, thought to have been an "endling" - the last surviving member of his species. In 2018, his conservationists set up an online dating profile in the hope of find a mate on Match.com, complete with a video. Eventually they found three males and two females, and Romeo has now been paired with a female named Juliet. However, Juliet's personality was the opposite to Romeo's, with Juliet being really energetic and constantly trying to escape, while Romeo is shy. (Forfeit: Me)

- XL Tangent: There is a dating app called "Tudder" which is aimed at cows. It was launched in 2019 and is aimed at farmers to find suitable mats for their livestock. Tennis player Andy Murray has invested in Tudder.

- XL Tangent: The creature with the most sinister genitals is a left-handed snail. In 2017, a snail named Jeremy (after Jeremy Corbyn)was found, who had a shell that spiralled to the left rather than to the right and thus his genitals were on the wrong side in comparison to most snails. Therefore Jeremy could only mate with another leftie snail. They later found two potential mates, one from Spain and one from Suffolk. The three were brought together, however the ones from Spain and Suffolk mated, leaving Jeremy having to watch them.

General Ignorance

- The planet which is the closest to Earth is Mercury. The minimum distance between Earth and Venue is 24million miles, between Earth and Mars is 34million, and Earth to Mercury 48million. However, due to the orbits of the planets, often Venus and Mars are on the opposite side of the Sun to Earth. One expert, Oliver Hawkins, found that Mercury is the planet that spends most time closest to Earth 46% of the time, followed by Venus at 36% and Mars at 18%. (Forfeit: Mars; Venus; The Moon)

- XL Tangent: On Venus, a day is longer than a year, meaning that you could stroll across the surface at exactly the same speed as the sun passes through the sky, and thus you could watch the sunset forever just by walking. However, this is also impossible to do because the weather on Venus is so hostile. It rains sulphuric acid and the atmosphere is 872 degrees Fahrenheit.

- Tangent: The panel mention mnemonics to remember the order of the planets. Real ones include, "Many volcanoes emit mulberry jam sandwiches under normal pressure", "My very easy method just speeds up naming planets", and, "Mary's virgin explanation made Joseph suspect upstairs neighbour", but Alan D. suggests, "Moist vagina expected might just steam up nightie", and Alice offers, "Mum's vacant expression means Jane sulks unless noticed".

- XL: The oldest part of the Earth is in Houston, because it is a piece of moon rock. In 1971, Apollo 14 brought back some moon rock which was sent to NASA's lunar sample laboratory facility, and in January 2019 a piece of this rock was analysed. It was then discovered that it came from the Hadean Earth, when the planet was about 500million years old. It is believed that this rock was blasted off the Earth about four billion years ago when the planet was hit by a large asteroid, and the Moon was only a third of the distance away from the Earth as it is now. The Moon is still drifting away from the Earth, but only at about 1.6 inches per year.

- The name of the sword pulled from the stone by King Arthur was Clarent. Excalibur was the sword given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. (Forfeit: Excalibur)

- XL Tangent: Phill comments that he spotted a boy in the street wearing jeggings. Alan C. says that Phill could see that the boy was sinister.

- Alan C. is challenged to go to a table containing a silver tray of cups and to identify which is the Holy Grail. He fails because the Holy Grail was most likely a serving dish, so he should pick up the tray. The word "grail" comes from the Latin "gradale", meaning a deep platter. It was not until the Middle Ages that it became a cup. Although people think anyone who drinks out of the grail gain immortality, the Bible gives no special significance to the chalice at all. (Forfeit: The wooden one)

- XL Tangent: In one of the legends involving the Holy Grail, Joseph of Arimathea brings the grail to Glastonbury. Legend claims there is also a stream there that flows red because of Christ's blood, but scientists claims the red actually comes from high levels of iron red oxide in the soil.


- Phill Jupitus: -1 point
- Alan Carr: -7 points
- Alan Davies: -15 points
- Alice Levine: -18 points


Jeremy the left-handed snail appeared in an episode of QI spin-off show No Such Thing As The News, Series 2 Episode 3.

Broadcast details

Friday 11th October 2019
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Phill Jupitus Guest
Alice Levine Guest
Alan Carr Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Anna Ptaszynski Script Editor
Sandi Toksvig Script Editor
Alex Bell Question Writer
Production team
Diccon Ramsay Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer


Alan Carr on QI

Alan Carr is pleased to be on television with another Alan.

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Alan Carr.

Poo on Everest

The panel learn about what happens to the poo on Mount Everest.

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Phill Jupitus, Alice Levine, Alan Carr.

Which is the closet planet to Earth?

You'd think it'd be Mars... but Mercury is the closest planet to Earth. Sometimes. QI explains.

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Phill Jupitus, Alice Levine, Alan Carr.


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